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Have you ever wondered why Tom Ford rarely wears a tie and always seems to have his shirt unbuttoned-down-to-there?
"I wear my shirts open because ties give me a headache," Ford says in Visionaries: Tom Ford, a new hour-long documentary set to premiere on the Oprah Winfrey Network June 24th. "I can only wear them for a few hours and then I start to get a migraine."
The astonishingly personal program, filmed over the course of several months—spanning Ford's debut womenswear show in New York last fall through his guest-editorship of Vogue Paris before the departure of Carine Roitfeld and the opening of the Tom Ford flagship in Beverly Hills—is an unprecedented look behind-the-scenes at this ordinarily rather private designer—"You know I've never let anyone film me like this before," Ford tells the camera.
We've long been fascinated by Ford—the man who was once the king of fashion, running both the houses of Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent, whose 90s and 00s fashion ads were some of the most transgressive the industry had ever seen, and whose perfectionist public demeanor was, at times, aloof and off-putting, sometimes (so flawlessly groomed as to come off as) inhuman.
Visionaries: Tom Ford changes things entirely—Ford opens up to the audience in a way that we never imagined possible, revealing his own struggles with depression, mid-life crisis, and professional reinvention. He also reveals that he takes between three and five baths a day, a fact which, somehow, makes us really like him.
After a long career in the luxury establishment creating 16 collections each year, constantly shuttling between the Gucci studios in Milan and the YSL studios in Paris—and despite having homes, horses, hounds, and every material object he could ask for—"Something was missing from my life," Ford says. That's when he walked away from everything.
"I remember the day I left Gucci," Ford says. "My last day which was in April. I came home, pulled all the drapes, and went to sleep. I woke up the next morning and looked at my calendar. It was usually so full, and there was just nothing. I didn't know who I was, I didn't know what I was supposed to be."
Ford says he channeled this personal and professional crisis of identity into his debut feature film, A Single Man, which opened in theaters in 2009, starring Colin Firth and Julianne Moore.
It's "very much my midlife crisis on screen," Ford says. "I grafted an enormous part of my life" into the film—even the two dogs on screen are Ford's own dogs. "There's a very squiggly line between Tom Ford the man and Tom Ford the brand."
As for his return to the womenswear industry, which is chronicled in never-before-seen footage from backstage and frontstage at Ford's debut collection last September, he explains that he was waiting for the right reason and the right time to make a comeback—that he'd abstain from womenswear "unless I can come back to it the way I want to—unless I can come back to it where I can change the system."
The intimate 100-editor-only salon presentation Ford staged for his spring 2011 collection starred runway legends including Lauren Hutton and Karen Elson alongside celebrities such as Julianne Moore and Beyonce Knowles. At the show, Ford announced each model as she appeared on the catwalk and described, in detail, what she was wearing.
When reports of this format and exclusivity leaked to the mass fashion media, mild hysteria ensued over Ford's perceived snobbery. In the documentary, he explains that he chose the format: "Because of my past reputation, there is enormous expectation of me designing a womenswear collection," he says. "I thought I should really push it [the expectation] down... You should do something first and then talk about." Rather than talk about something and then do it.
Though his spring—and, since then, fall 2011—collection has been well-received across the board editorially and retail-wise, Ford still seems to have his feet planted firmly on the ground and waxes surprisingly philosophical on his work in the fashion industry.
"I have, sometimes, mixed feelings about what we do because we convince people they're not perfect enough," he says. "We promote materialism, which is ultimately not the thing that brings you happiness in the world.
"We don't own anything in our lives," Ford says, "we don't own anything in the world. [I think of it as] a bunch of stuff I'm swimming through in this life to go from here to wherever I'm going afterwards... The most important things in life are your connections to other people."
As for changing the face of fashion? Ford is oddly fatalistic. "Moving fashion forward used to be one of my chief goals, it's not necessarily anymore," he says. "Fashion needs to change when life changes. You only need to move fashion forward when there's a reason to move fashion forward. I know one day I'll be irrelevant. No matter how hard you try, there is a cultural moment, but eventually that window's gone, your time on Earth is finished, and you might as well leave.
"I could absolutely die tomorrow—I would not care," Ford says. "I feel like I've lived, I feel like I've had a great life. There are lots of things I'd like to do, I don't want to die, but I'm comfortable enough with having lived and having experiences that death does not freak me out at all."
Visionaries: Tom Ford premieres at 10 p.m. ET June 24th on OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network. It is amazing.
· OWN [Official Site]